For drivers like Abrar, self-employment has brought success
Careem captains use link to company to invest in own vehicle
With his friendly smile and cheerful manner, Abrar Ahmed was one of the first 'Careem Captains' when the business first launched with 25 drivers.
The Pakistani used to be an airport taxi driver and decided to take a chance and quit to join the Dubai-based ride-share.
Now, five years on, he says he is living proof of the opportunities that it has brought, owning two luxury vehicles - one that he drives himself and another that he leases out.
"I have been given a lot of opportunities by working in Careem and if it weren't for them, I wouldn't be here in Dubai," he said yesterday.
Even from the beginning, with the uncertainty of a new company, he knew it “would be a much better job”. As with global rival Uber, Careem captains do not directly work for the company, but do undergo training and have other benefits.
“When I started working for the company there was only 25-30 drivers, now there is more than 2,500 drivers [in Dubai]," he said.
Abrar is one of a number of drivers that have used their association with Careem to buy a luxury vehicle, cementing their confidence as 'self-employed' people and ensuring they do not have to pay to lease one.
In some of the countries Careem operates, certain banks will accept that the company is a guarantor for a loan. In others, they boost their credit-worthiness.
Careem co-founder Mudassir Sheikha said the business has partnered up with banks and governments to financially assist their captains in acquiring cars.
“In many of the markets where people can’t afford to buy cars, we have created programmes that will allow them to buy these cars - their own cars” said Mr Sheikha.
“They may not have been credit-worthy before, but now with the income that we are able to guarantee [to lenders] that they are actually qualified to buy these cars."
Careem’s headquarters in Dubai also has an 'emergency fund' for captains that get into debt.
“The emergency fund was collected from Careem employees in our HQ in Dubai," Mr Sheikha said.
"Total collection was Dh20,000. A committee was also formed to decide when to allocate these funds to captains. Once a captain's situation is approved, the loan will be granted to him, and he will be paying back in instalments."
Mr Sheikha said the captains are the “heart and soul of the business".
"If they have not been with us from the beginning, we would not be where we are today," he said.
"Back then we didn’t much any money to invest in marketing. What worked was them giving great customer service.
“So they were the guys that lifted us and gave us a platform that we could build on. It’s really their anniversary and their event to celebrate”.
For Abrar, the opportunity to answer the 'yalla' call on the app is a welcome one, but the hours and long and occasionally passengers are difficult.
”Sunday mornings, Thursday evenings and Fridays are usually my busiest days - I work 12-13 hours a day, but I'm independent so it’s up to me how many hours I put in.
“Only in some cases at night we encounter incidents, however, generally, I get really good customers," he beams.